Sunday, December 30, 2018

Top 5 Most-Read Posts of 2018

Thank you all for a wonderful year of reading and sharing!
I love blogging because I love sharing our lives and (hopefully) encouraging others in the process!

Here is a countdown of our Top 5 Most Read Posts of 2018:

#5 My 2018 tribute to 9/11. Thank you all for remembering with me. May we all move forward with love.

#4 A post from early in the year based on a beautiful statement of Annabeth's. I am so richly blessed to be home full-time and homeschooling full-time. So thankful that I don't have to miss it all

#3 Our 9th Anniversary Post. Mark and I have grown so much in love and I am so thankful to have a love story that I want to share! God has truly blessed us and we hope to glorify him by honoring our marriage vows and encouraging others in Christian marriage.

#2 My 2018 Banana Box Sale review was read hundreds of times, probably based on that awesome picture of all the food I got at a great deal! I love finding, and sharing, good deals!

#1 Frugal Friday 267! It makes sense that my most read post of the year would be one of my weekly ones. Thank you to every one of you who has read my Frugal Friday posts for 276 weeks now!

Thank you again to each of you for stopping by the blog today and any other day that you have.
I love having you as part of our journey in Life and Love.

Thank you for being part of our 2018
and we cannot wait to share 2019 with you as well!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Frugal Friday 276

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last Friday, Mark attended our city employee Christmas luncheon. He said they had a very nice lunch, were each gifted a very nice city logo umbrella, and Mark's door prize had $40 in giftcards to various places to eat around town!

 The kids very much enjoyed the Christmas Dinner put
on by the Franklin Police Department
Photo Credits: Belle Amie Photography

- We did a deep clean of both kids' rooms. I think I worked about six hours between the two rooms. But they are completely organized and four trash bags left the house as donations, recycling, or trash. Each of the kids had also outgrown some of what was in their dressers so I organized all of that for the sale tote and got out larger sizes from their grow into totes. It was a TON of work but I love having it done! We also worked about two hours in the school room.

- We finished the book of Luke. We set a family goal to read a chapter a day leading up to Christmas Eve. We missed a few evenings but did catch up and finished Chapter 24 on Christmas Eve before church.

- Mark worked overtime and I wrapped up end of the year business with my Usborne Books & More business.

- We had a simple, fun Saturday last week. Mark worked so the kids and I cleaned house, went to the library for a huge new stack of books (Annabeth is into King Tut right now so we're exploring Egypt at the moment), and then had breakfast at Don and Donna's - made affordable by the fact that they include drinks with the buffet and Owen is free! We enjoyed an afternoon of Christmas movies and once Mark was home we ate freezer pizza and all four played Apples to Apples Disney. The kids were so much fun! Owen lost interest after the first game so he just ran circles around the game table screaming while we played again.

- We enjoyed multiple church services leading into Christmas as well as many days with Mark's family. I am so thankful for our church family and our family.

- The children received many great games for Christmas and we enjoyed playing them each evening after dinner. The kids quickly learned that Mark is a game master and he is especially great at detective style games (surprise, surprise as he is a trained investigator, haha!) like Guess Who? and Clue.

- I rearranged our living room and breakfast room. I have completely turned the breakfast room into the kids' toy area. Our living room no longer has toys spilling everywhere! We are so excited to have, for the first time in this house, a kids' living space and an adult living space.

- I had to run to Meijer for a quick pick up of necessities I had accidentally left off the grocery list last week. I scored a few items on Christmas Clearance 50% off - 2 rolls of wrapping paper (each of our kids' gifts are wrapped in their own paper on Christmas morning) and a toothpaste/2 toothbrush set for $3! Just the toothpaste would usually be about that much so I felt like I got the toothbrushes free.

- Now that I have a fancy smartphone, I decided to finally use the Ibotta grocery app. My sister-in-law is an amazing couponer/app user and I am learning from her! Join Here.

We are looking forward to a busy weekend celebrating Christmas with more family!

Happy Savings to All!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Big, Scary 2018 Financial Goal UPDATE

About thirteen months ago, I posted about our Big, Scary 2018 Financial Goal. You might want to read that post first so you can see what we wanted to achieve.

As promised, here is my update: We were able to achieve about 1/3 of our goal!

Not perfect, not 100% but I am still so excited about the progress we made on our home mortgage.

This past year was a very expensive medical bill year for us (nearly $8,000 in medical bills have been paid in CASH by our family) Mark has also changed jobs which has affected our income and his part time work. Despite these changes we have remained committed to not taking out credit cards or loans and editing our finances to pay cash for all that we want/need.

If you read the comments on that original post, my wise friend Abbi wrote: "I am excited for you making this goal. I think it is great to stretch ourselves but then also be able to give ourselves grace should something come up that causes it not to work out." I have held on to that advice many times this year as our money wasn't able to go where we wanted it to go. 

Were we 100% committed to only achieving this goal? Absolutely not. We still ate out, we still did some little trips, we still had extras. Could we have been more committed? Absolutely! Will we keep working on it in 2019 ? YOU BET!

We have now been in our home 5.5 years and very much dream of having it paid off in the first 15 years that we are in it! We cannot wait to "owe no man anything but love"

What were your 2018 financial goals? How did you do on them? What are your goals for 2019?

Friday, December 21, 2018

Frugal Friday 275

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Friday we had a little Christmas party with some of Annabeth's school friends. We hosted and had two different ornament crafts (Victorian Paper Fans and Cinnamon Cut Out Ornaments) and decorated cookies.

- Friday evening Mark enjoyed the Boy Scout Adult Christmas party with his friends from scouts. He had a great night out with friends.

- Saturday I joined two other ladies at their Holiday Open House. I had a decent sales day and more importantly made some great new contacts for my Usborne Books & More business!

- Sunday morning Annabeth performed in our church's Christmas Cantata. She was overjoyed to play handbells and play a shepherd. We are so thankful for our church family and especially Miss Clara, Miss Becky, and Miss Terry for all of their hard work preparing the little girls for their handbell performance. After church, Mark and the kids went to lunch with many of the Rileys.

In their Sunday best, 
at our church Christmas Cantata.

- Sunday after church I went up north for a baby shower. One of my very oldest friends is welcoming her first child. I was able to see friends from my school years and it was so wonderful to celebrate with them.

- I listed a climbing toy on Facebook. Sold to a friend who picked up at our house. Made: $60

- We ordered from Imperfect for the first time. It is a company that sells "imperfect" produce and delivers straight to your door. You can choose which kind of box you want (fruit, veggie, or combo) and can hand pick which ones you receive. You can also see exactly what is "imperfect" about it. We did the small fruit box and the fruit that came looked just like the fruit from our local Meijer or Kroger! You can save $10 by using my link here Imperfect Produce.

- I ordered one item on Black Friday. I got an awesome deal (which I mentioned on the blog that week) It never came and shipping never updated beyond "Ready to Send" So I called for a refund. It was out of stock so they couldn't replace and I got a full refund. They did say if it happened to ever show up that it was mine to keep. It came Wednesday! Woohoo! I am excited to have it totally free!

- Wednesday night the kids and I enjoyed the Christmas party at their dance studio. We had dinner and played games. The kids each took and got a fun gift (we took Usborne books of course!) and they each got a snowglobe picture frame which Owen especially loved.

- Yesterday we met friends in Shelbyville for a fun morning at the Grover Museum and to play at the Shelby County Library. We were treated, totally as a surprise, for lunch by our sweet friends the O'Neal Family - thank you all! The kids and I also stopped by the Shelby County Friends of the Library bookstore and got 6 new books for $11. We scored a book about the presidents, one about the first ladies, a book about women heroes of the Revolutionary War, one about women heroes of the Civil War, an African folk tale, and an AWESOME book/kit about King Tut complete with archeology kit and journal. We'll be happy to stop there again while in town.

- I donated a $40 Usborne Books & More Christmas/winter themed basket to the Franklin Police Department's Christmas Party. It was fun to see the family who won it open the books and begin reading to their little girl right away!

- Last night, we enjoyed Mark's work Christmas party. It was nice for me to meet many of his new co-workers. The kids each enjoyed getting a gift (again, a book) and we had a very nice dinner. Officer Floyd also made sure that every family had a door prize to take home. Owen was very happy with his Key Bank travel mug and Annabeth loved her sparkly bracelet. Thank you FPD for a nice evening.

We are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas weekend.
We are praying that your eyes and hearts are focused on the Lord and his birthday celebration this week.
Merry Christmas and Happy Savings to All!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Frugal Friday 274

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money:

- I did my first vendor fair with my Usborne Books & More business. I had a good sales day and resisted many great purchases from other vendors. I did buy one piece from a fellow LEO family. I also had a great 30 minute chat with an 8 year old who knew just about everything about dinosaurs and African animals.

- Mark and his parents took the kids to our church's annual Breakfast with Jesus and Santa. They had a good morning and enjoyed supporting that fundraiser for our church.

- My sister came to town and took Annabeth down to the Trafalgar Library for an American Girl event. She enjoyed borrowing Aunt Lu's American Girl doll and making crafts. I love that this event was fun and free!
Annabeth making a gingerbread house
at the event with Aunt Lu. 

- Saturday evening my sister and I took Annabeth downtown to the Circle. I paid for dinner. It was Annabeth's first time at Hard Rock Cafe so we had dinner and got her a shirt. Then, Lu surprised Annabeth with her Christmas gift which was a carriage ride around downtown Indianapolis. My parents took Lu and I when we were little and it's one of our favorite Christmas memories. We were both so excited to share this with Annabeth as well. She loved all of the lights and I enjoyed showing her Old National and IPL's trees as well. Thank you Lu for a magical night out!

Downtown under the Soldier's and Sailor's Monument

- Sunday, Mark kept the kids, and Lu and I took the afternoon out together. We ate and shopped around downtown Franklin. I was able to finish up a bit of shopping and I was just happy to be with my sister all day. We came home and all decorated Christmas cookies together and then had dinner out.

- Sunday night into Monday I got the stomach flu (I usually have this over New Year's so I am hoping it was early and I am done for the holidays) Lu kindly took the kids to play at the Greenwood Library and out to lunch so I could rest and then clean bathrooms/do laundry without helpers. Thank you Lu!

- I earned a $5 gift card last month through Usborne. Thank you to my team leader Lana for the free Starbucks this week! :)

- Mark and Owen did the grocery shopping. While there, a manager asked them to participate in a loss prevention training. They did it and earned a $5 gift card!

- I received a FREE FULL SIZE product from Garnier Fructise to review. I used the product and wrote my review. While I was not compensated for my review I loved that I got a full sized product vs a tiny sample one and it was one that I liked!

We had a busy week and I am very much looking forward to my final open house of the season tomorrow in Shelbyville.
Also, we would like to invite anyone in the Indianapolis area to our church's annual Christmas Cantata this Sunday. Services are at 8:30 and 11 at Christ United Methodist Church. We hope to see you there!

Happy Savings to All!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Exact Spot.

Mark and I don't exchange gifts. Valentine's Day has always been a card, our anniversary has always been a card, our birthdays have been cards only since having Annabeth. We do help the kids buy the other gifts for Mother's Day and Father's Day but those are very much kid selected (the kids gave Mark a cartoon movie last Father's Day) All that to say... imagine my surprise when Annabeth and I got home from dance last night and I had a package on the dining room table.

I opened it and found this...

I was so excited! How neat! How thoughtful!

Mark said, "Guess where the coordinates are."

I guessed Camp Lakeview. Nope.
I guessed the bridge where I heard that Still Small Voice whisper "this is the man you will marry" and where we were engaged the next summer. No.
I guessed Lutheran Lake. Nope.

He said, "It's where your car was parked the first time we met. The exact place we met."

Oh friends, I cried! (and I am not even a crier!)
Not only had he found this incredibly sweet gift he went so far beyond just getting it done to make it so perfect.

I share this as a reminder to make use of ALL the moments. Other than a three hour break yesterday evening, Mark has been at work since 7:45 yesterday morning and will work all day today. He will come home, change clothes, and go serve up north with his Scout Troop. I have been busy with school, the kids, dance, work, and more. Our lives get busy really fast and we quickly could become, and have in the past, roommates instead of best friends and partners. After an especially difficult spring five years ago, we really purposed to be intentional. Intentional with checking in with each other, helping with the big and little tasks, being present even if our time together is measured in minutes.

I love that he hung this frame right away and I've smiled each time I've looked at it in the past twelve hours. I loved watching him hang the frame with Owen and thinking just how far we've come since we met at that exact spot. I cannot wait to see where else the Lord takes us!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Frugal Friday 273

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Mark worked a shift at his part-time job and I worked my Usborne book business.

- Saturday we had what I would call a perfect day. We packed Meal Bags, stopped by the live Nativity downtown, had coffee and candy canes at Don and Donna's with the Franklin Police Department, and then put up our Christmas tree. In the afternoon, we surprised the kids with Owen's first trip to the movie theater. We went to the Artcraft (just $21 for our movie tickets, water, and popcorn) and enjoyed "The Christmas Story" Owen and Annabeth only enjoyed the popcorn and cartoon preview but Mark and I loved the movie as always. We came home and read the first chapter of Luke and a Christmas chapter in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "The Long Winter." Seriously perfect day.

Owen's first movie theater trip!
He loved eating the popcorn and drank our whole bottle of water

 All year Annabeth has been waiting for this moment.
"Then, Daddy will lift me up and I will put the star 
on the very top of the tree."

Reading "The Long Winter" by tree-light
It may be a new Christmas memory but it's now one of
my very sweetest.

- We shopped for our first family Christmas event and bought snacks for some of our favorite little boys. I used coupons and saved $7.50!

- Tuesday was our 90th day of school. Annabeth finished all three of her main coursebooks and passed her exams. We are excited to be 1/2 way through 2nd grade! We started the next books on Thursday and I plan to have at least 100 days of school in before Christmas.

- Wednesday we celebrated our half-way point by visiting the local museum. Our county museum is free and we enjoyed a bit of play there. Each Christmas local groups decorate trees and the public can vote on their favorite. We each chose a tree for that as well. We had less than an inch of snow but the kids wanted to play so play they did! We also stopped our day to watch the State Funeral of President George H.W. Bush. I didn't ask them to sit through all of it but we did listen as #43 remembered #41.

- I closed out a Cards for a Cause for a friend's group. I was happy to help them earn money towards their fundraising goals.

- Mark decided to relearn German this week. A few nights in I joined him. We are using the free site

- We donated a bag of books and toys to a local charity as part of our pre-Christmas cleanout. I was thankful that the kids, especially Owen, were so generous in giving to others. I was proud to see him give up two big trucks as well as many smaller toys.

- Yesterday my friend Katelyn stopped by to buy books (thank you for supporting my Usborne Books & More business!) AND was kind enough to share her Starbucks BOGO with me! Hot chocolate on a cold day was such a treat. Thank you sweet friend!

And finally, a note about Christmas cards. I have ALWAYS done them (since I was 11!) by the hundreds! I used to write long letters in them to each person, handmade hundreds one year, and after Annabeth was born we switched to the picture cards so we could get a good family picture to everyone in our lives at least once a year. But this year I just don't feel like it. I am not sad about Christmas or unfestive but the thing that was overwhelming me most was looking ahead at the Christmas card list, so I'm not doing it. The kids painted 10 cards earlier this fall and we sent those to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and to our elderly neighbors and then I was done. And despite the guilt I feel about people being left out it was such a weight off my shoulders. So, there is my Christmas Cards 2018 PSA.
If we sent a card it would say this: We love you, Merry Christmas!

We are looking forward to and fun and busy weekend with family!
If you are local and looking to do some last minute shopping please come see me at Style Dance Academy's Ladies Day Out tomorrow from 9-3!